Saturday, March 24, 2012

READ: Simplified Combination Coverage

As a grad assistant in the late 90s, I was introduced to a form of pattern reading out of a 4-4 at the IAA level. Later I was at a few places where we tried to run Quarters coverage. In both situations it never seemed to click with our players. Sure, it seemed simple to our coaching staff, but we never seemed to get the production from it in proportion to the practice time used installing it. As my career progressed, I began to embrace the 3-3 package and the Cover 3 / Man-Free concepts that fit so well with this front. But as the offenses we faced became more & more advanced and proficient in throwing the ball, I began to see the need for a change-up. What we eventually came up with is our version of READ Coverage.
Originally I wanted a way that I could turn my 2 inverts (We call them Spurs) loose to play 100 % run vs 2 RBs without telegraphing the fact that we were in Cover Zero. What we came up with is this:

The READ Technique
This technique is used by 2 defenders against 2 receivers. The way that we teach it to the players is by telling them that this is going to turn into Man coverage within the first 5 yards; we are just letting the receivers determine who has who. Once the defenders have identified their responsibility, they attack the receiver as if they are Out of Phase (using the Saban terminology). They drive at the proper angle (more on that later) and try to get in a hip to hip relationship with the WR.
The CB aligns at 7-10 yds deep over the #1 receiver. The interior defender (FS or Spur) aligns 10-12 yds deep over the #2 receiver. Both players will “Read”
the #2 receiever.
We tell our players that #2 can do 3 things in the first 5 yards. He can go inside, he can go outside, or he can go vertical.
  • If # 2 goes inside or vertical, both players yell “Stay,Stay” and the FS takes #2 man to man and the CB takes #1 man to man. The FS may have to get on his horse and chase the Drag route but the LBs are looking to wall off anything coming across.
  • If #2 goes outside, both players yell “Switch, Switch” and the CB jumps the route of #2. The FS has #1 but he will take a cut-off angle to defend the go route by #1 first. (Since that can beat us the fastest).

That is it. That is our READ technique. Now this is how we play READ Coverage.
READ vs 2RBs
  • When the Spurs see 2 RBs, they will know that they are Run first / Force players all the way. If it turns to pass, they continue with the rush unless a back crosses their face. (Pitch/Peel Rule)
  • The CB to the single receiver side is on an island , Man to Man with no help.
  • To the two receiver side, the FS and CB are executing a READ technique.
  • Note: if the #1 receiver is excessively far away from the #2, then the DBs can make an early “Stay” call before the snap and play loose man.

After we installed this, we needed a one back adjustment other than checking out of the coverage. Through much trial and error, we came up with some rules to play vs one back that we actually began to use as our Base coverage.
READ vs 1RB in a 2×2 set
  • One RB tells the Spurs that they are now involved in the coverage.
  • The CB and Spur will align over the 2 receivers to each side and play a READ Technique.
  • The FS is free to the ball in the middle of the field

When we align like this the QB sees MOF closed and thinks Cover 3 or Man Free, but we are too far off to be in Man. Many coordinators like 4 verticals vs MOF closed (We are fine against this) or they like the curl / flat combo (The CB will take the Flats head off and the Spur robs the curl). Either way we have created confusion.

READ vs 1 RB in a 3 x 1 set
  • To the three receiver side, the Spur rolls up & plays press man on #3
  • To the three receiver side, the FS & CB play READ technique on #1 and #2
  • The backside CB is locked tight man on #1
  • The backside Spur aligns on the backside hash and is a free to the ball player. We tell him to check the single receiver to see if the CB needs help, then look for crossers from the Trips side.

Once again, this is confusing for the QB. He has a MOF Open look which should tell him some kind of Cover 2 or Quarters. Many coordinators like to look for the Smash route vs 2 (We are ok) or they like the bubble screen vs Quarters (Once again the CB should blow it up).
Once the players learn the rules, the adjustments are built in. Motion from Trips to Doubles is a simple move back to READ tech for the Spurs and the FS is free in the middle. Motion from Doubles to Trips send the Spur rolling up into Man, the FS moves into READ tech and the other Spur, sinks back.
If the players can count to 3, they can play this coverage. To phrase the rules in a simple way:
  • 1 receiver = Press Man
  • More than 1 receiver = Read #2
  • 1 receiver = Free on the Hash
  • 2 receivers = READ tech
  • 3 receivers = Man on #3
Using these rules, the coverage also adjusts well to empty.

Communication is key in this coverage. We tell our players that we don’t care whether they make a “Stay” or “Switch” call, as long as they both play the same thing. If one guys stays and the other one switches, the opposing receiver is going to be celebrating in the end zone.
We have been very happy with this coverage as almost a catch-all vs Spread teams. It has simple adjustments yet looks complicated to the opposing QB, which fits our overall philosophy on Defense.


  1. We made it more simple than that, we tell our safety if he gets a quick out by #2 to give an out call. If he gives an out call it's his job to get over #1. If he feels he can't get over the top of #1 then stays silent and plays quarters. If he does give an out he better get over #1 or it's his ass.

  2. We run it basically the same way. On a 3x1 set, we would tell the safety on the single to check 3 on the trips then back to 1 on the single. I do love this coverage.

  3. Coach how can we contact you to speak more to you about this coverage concept?

  4. Greetings Coach W,
    i'm very interesting in your READ Tec , but i can't see the pictures in this Post.
    Can you fix it? Your could you send me an PDF of this Post? Would be great.
    Thx in common
    Coach JB, Germany